One Church Plan Critique – #6 and #7

From Wesley White’s Critique of the One Church Plan

Ministry of Deacons and an Elder – Par. 329 and 224

These two petitions (6 & 7) are the same petition. In one case they are directed toward Deacons and in the other toward Elders. In both cases, they continue the theme already heard—a built-in excuse not to treat LGBTQ+ persons with the same pastoral care as heterosexual persons.

Amend ¶ 329 by adding new sub-paragraph after ¶ 329.3

¶ 329.4 In conferences where civil law permits a pastor to perform a same-sex marriage service, no deacon in full connection shall at any time be required or compelled to perform, or prohibited from performing, any marriage, union, or blessing of same-sex couples, or of any couples. Each deacon shall have the right to exercise his or her conscience to refuse or agree when requested to perform any marriages, unions, or blessing as a matter of his or her individual religious liberty.

and

Amend ¶ 334 by adding new sub-paragraph after ¶ 334.5

¶ 334.6. In conferences where civil law permits a pastor to perform same-sex marriage services, no elder shall at any time be required or compelled to perform, or prohibited from performing, any marriage, union, or blessing of same-sex couples, or of any couples. Each elder shall have the right to exercise his or her conscience to refuse or agree when requested to perform such marriages, unions, or blessing as a matter of his or her individual religious liberty.

  • The Discipline is clear that clergy have the authority to decide whether or not to officiate at a wedding (¶340.2.a.3.a). This addition authorizes a local option for discrimination under the disguise of “religious liberty”.
  • While there are expectations of pre-marital counseling and determining the fitness of those coming to be married, it must be admitted that weddings are more of a social and state function than religious. The Discipline has an interesting parenthetical statement about pastors and marriage in ¶316. Among a pastor’s duties is the “…service of marriage (where state laws allow)….” This highlights that marriage is less religious/doctrinal and more a social or state concern.
  • I would contend that these petitions are mislocated. ¶¶329 and 334 are about clergy voting, holding office in an annual conference, professional competency, and relationship to one another. Being able to decide about officiating at a marriage on any ground other than treating every couple on the same basis goes beyond the scope of these paragraphs.
  • Again, the “religious liberty” phrase turns up to defend those in a pastoral role who would establish a pocket of discrimination. There is no similar concern given for LGBTQ+ persons who will have the church’s back turned to them one more time. It gives permission to use orientation as a reason not to officiate.
  • With this understanding of what is behind the petitions, no paragraph can honestly hold them.
  • Delegates will have the opportunity to consider and project where such permission-giving will lead by General Conference 2024. Hopefully, they will then vote “No” when these petitions come to the floor for a vote.
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